A survivor of the shooting at one of the mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on March 15 has described how his friend risked his life to tackle the gunman and wrestle away his weapon.
Syed Mazharuddin told the New Zealand Herald he witnessed the attack.
“There was screaming around and I tried to take cover,” he said.
Mazharuddin told the Herald that barely had he managed to take cover when the gunman made his way through the main entrance door of the Linwood mosque.
The mosque in the neighborhood of Linwood was the second location targeted by the gunman in Friday’s mass shooting spree that left at least 49 dead.
‘He Just Started Shooting at Them’
Mazharuddin said as soon as the gunman entered the mosque, he started firing wildly.
“Just around the entrance door there were elderly people sitting there praying and he just started shooting at them.”
He said at one point one of his acquaintances tried to tackle the shooter, who was dressed in body armor.
“The young guy who usually takes care of the mosque … he saw an opportunity and pounced on [the gunman] and took his gun,” Mazharuddin said.
“The hero tried to chase and he couldn’t find the trigger in the gun … he ran behind him but there were people waiting for him in the car and he fled.”
Armed Congregant Fired on Gunman
An armed congregant chased after and fired twice at the gunman, the New Zealand Herald reported.
The man—identified only as a well-known area resident and a Muslim—left the scene of the Linwood mosque when gunfire broke out before returning with a firearm to engage the gunman.
He reportedly fired two rounds at the shooter as he sped off in a getaway vehicle.
“They were in a silver Subaru,” the man told police.
The armed congregation member reportedly told the authorities he was firing in “self defense.”
Witness Len Peneha told The Associated Press he saw the gunman enter the mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror.
Peneha, who lives next door to the mosque, said after the gunman drove away, he went into the mosque to try and help.
“I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” he said. “It’s unbelievably nutty. I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”
‘One of New Zealand’s Darkest Days’
At least 49 people were killed in multiple shootings at two Christchurch mosques.
The Linwood mosque shooting claimed at least seven lives while a second shooting, at the Al Noor mosque, resulted in at least 41 dead.
Police also found and defused explosive devices attached to a vehicle outside of one of the mosques.
At least 48 people, some in critical condition, were being treated at Christchurch Hospital for gunshot wounds, authorities said.
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said of Friday’s carnage.
She said it was “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
Authorities have announced murder charges against the man suspected of being the gunman in New Zealand’s worst mass shooting in history.
Police said a total of three people had been arrested in connection with the incident but did not identify those taken into custody and gave no details except to say that none of them had been on any watch list. They have not said whether the same person was responsible for both shootings.
Authorities said the murder suspect would appear in Christchurch District Court on Saturday morning.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed one of the suspects was an Australian national.
“I can confirm that the individual who was taken into custody I have been advised is an Australian-born citizen,” Morrison told reporters in Sydney on Friday.
A man who seemed to claim responsibility for the shootings, 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant, an Australian citizen, allegedly left a 74-page manifesto in which he explained who he was and his reasoning for the attack, although police have not confirmed he is the shooter.
An Epoch Times reporter has viewed the document.
Tarrant described himself as an “eco-fascist” in his writings. “I was a communist, then an anarchist and finally a libertarian before becoming an eco-fascist,” he wrote.
He also apparently wrote that the country with values closest to his own is communist China.
“The nation with the closest political and social values to my own is the People’s Republic of China,” read the manifesto purportedly written by Tarrant.
It remains unclear whether the other two people arrested will be charged with any crimes.
World leaders expressed condolences and condemnation Friday following the deadly attacks.
President Donald Trump sent “warmest sympathy and best wishes” to the people of New Zealand.
He wrote in a tweet that “49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!”
My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 15, 2019
The White House also condemned the attack.
“The United States strongly condemns the attack in Christchurch. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand and their government against this vicious act of hate,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
Queen Elizabeth II, who is New Zealand’s head of state, said in a message to the country she was “deeply saddened by the appalling events in Christchurch” and sent condolences to families and friends of victims. The queen also paid tribute to emergency services and volunteers supporting the injured.
“At this tragic time, my thoughts and prayers are with all New Zealanders,” she said in her message.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted that he learned of the attack “with horror and profound sadness.”
“The European Union will always stand with #NewZealand and against those who heinously want to destroy our societies and our way of life,” he wrote.
All mosques in New Zealand had been asked to shut their doors and armed guards posted at them, police said, adding they were not actively looking for any other “identified suspects.”
With additional reporting by Reuters and The Associated Press.